Pittsburgh learned it would be without star defenseman Kris Letang until next season because of a herniated disc in his neck.

After winning it all last June, the team had a short summer to recover physically. Then six of its best players — Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Matt Murray, Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, and Olli Maatta — ramped things up early, and missed most of training camp, by participating in the World Cup of Hockey. The 82-game Battle Royale of a regular season in the highly competitive Metropolitan Division followed, with assorted injuries taking a toll along the way.

The Penguins grinded their way to 50 wins, 111 points and the second-best record in the NHL, despite incredible wear and tear on their minds and bodies.

It’s been an exhausting season, maybe even more so mentally than physically, Penguins forward Carl Hagelin admitted to Sporting News late in the year.

Before the first puck even dropped on the postseason, Pittsburgh learned it would be without star defenseman Kris Letang until next season because of a herniated disc in his neck. A lower body injury suffered by Murray in warmups ahead of the playoff opener against the Columbus Blue Jackets was another ominous sign that back-to-back titles might not be attainable.

The problem is Jagr turns 46 midway through next season. Only Gordie Howe and Chris Chelios played beyond their 46th birthdays. The NHL has gone increasingly younger and faster while Jagr is older and slower, but his 46 points still ranked fourth on the Panthers last season.

The future Hall of Famer feels he has a 24th season to give if a team will take it. Florida and Philadelphia publicly stated it won’t be with them, but Jagr still makes sense as a veteran locker room presence and marketing darling for a team like the Golden Knights. Call the man.

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